trying to help

Saturday night we watched the movie A River Runs Through It, and I noticed this conversation:

"I thought we were supposed to help him."

"How the hell do you help that son of a bitch?"

"By taking him fishing."

"He doesn't like fishing. He doesn't like Montana and he sure as hell doesn't like me."

"...Well, maybe what he likes is somebody trying to help him."

In the office, which now doubles as my bedroom, there's a framed collection of things that belonged to a former guest who died of alcoholism. Childhood pictures, his cap, a worn ticket stub and a religious medal he used to carry in his pocket. And the date he died. I'm sure there are many others who visit here who will not be helped out of their biggest problems (like Nathaniel a couple days ago). That can be very discouraging.

But maybe love doesn't necessarily mean being successful in fixing people's problems, but trying to help them. And not giving up on them, even when they don't accept our help.

I'm reminded of these words by Thomas Merton:
Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.

Jesus taught us to love others as he loved us. And, from his perspective looking down from the cross, his work probably seemed pretty unsuccessful and useless. But the appearance of such love is always of infinite worth.